Sibling Conflict Hinders Aging Parent Caregiving Decisions

I found some interesting information on sibling conflict while making caregiving decisions for aging parents from Transition Aging Parents.  Communication between siblings is a key issue, and a book is recommended to help in this area.

I will say that unfortunately many families are not prepared to handle an aging parent crisis and are forced to respond quickly and ineffectively for that reason. There just isn’t time to stop, read a book and ponder the motivations and feelings of others. Add the dynamics of a family that was dysfunctional long before a crisis and suddenly it can be nearly impossible to solve problems and deal with the reality of a healthcare crisis for a family member, increasing caregiver stress substantially.  In most cases, siblings will fall back into predictable family patterns and roles. This generally leaves the bulk of responsibility to one or a few siblings, who then become angry and bitter towards everyone else.

Having experienced this unhealthy scenario, I can say that hindsight is definitely 20/20. My crisis belongs to the distant past, and looking back I can see much more clearly why my siblings behaved the way they did. And it had a lot less to do with deliberately trying to hurt me and much more to do with  their individual perspectives and personalities. But in the heat of battle everyone takes things personally, only later when the smoke has cleared do things make more sense.  It is extremely hard to understand that when you are in the thick of it.

Families need to realize they must work on communication problems long before aging parents are in crisis so they will be ready when that crisis hits.  Even then difficulties are bound to arise, and sometimes conflicts won’t be resolved until a long time after the crisis has passed.

I don’t have the definitive answers, I’m just asking the question. What other ways are there to help siblings at odds come together for the care of their aging parents?  Or is it simply a matter of muddling through as best you can and hoping for time to heal all wounds eventually?

References: Transition Aging Parents
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Brought To Our Senses family saga novel by Kathleen H. Wheeler

2 thoughts on “Sibling Conflict Hinders Aging Parent Caregiving Decisions

  1. Dale Carter

    Thanks for the reference to my article. I think elder mediators can be a wonderful resource for families. Have a family meeting before crisis hits and cover getting all the financial and legal documents in place … and discussion about end of life choices. With a skilled professional guiding the parent and family through a structured conversation, there’s focus on the end goal and conflict can be minimized.
    Such a meeting can lay a foundation of trust for future conversations.
    Here’s a link to elder mediator info:

  2. Kathleen H. Wheeler Post author

    Elder mediators sound like a great way to go if the aging parent is willing to cooperate. We tried to be proactive with my mother’s Alzheimer’s progression by hiring an attorney who specialized in elder law and enlisting the help of my mother’s own lawyer to get a power of attorney in place. Everything backfired because my mother refused to admit she had a problem, refused to get medical help, refused to let anyone know anything about her finances, and was completely paranoid that everyone was out to “take her money and put her away”. For my family the only course of action was to proceed through the courts for guardianship once things got out of control because our mother was so hostile. In some cases and even with the best of intentions, as I know from experience, you simply cannot properly prepare beforehand for the conflict that arises from a loved one’s Alzheimer’s decline.


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